Opposition MDC Alliance castigated the latest tollgate fees increase barely two months after another increment amid the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Recently, the Government set the payment of tollgate fees in US dollars or local currency equivalent in Line with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe US dollar auction rate.
In a statement, MDC Alliance secretary for transport, Settlement Chikwinya said the US dollar based toll fees are a burden to travellers.
“In November 2020, the government of Zimbabwe through ZINARA raised toll fees by 170% from 45 RTGS to 120 RTGS. Before 60 days have lapsed, the government has further increased the toll fees by a further 38 percent from 120 RTGS to 165 RTGS.
“All these increments are a burden on the traveler whose income continues to be depleted by the day. To further compound the woes for the traveling poor masses, the government has legalised the collection of toll fees in USD capped by a pronouncement that Toll fees will automatically increase in RTGS terms as and when the exchange rate changes upwards,” said Chikwinya
The Mbizo Constituency legislator said it defies logic to have toll fees increased yet RTGS based salaries for civil servants have remained static.
“The MDC Alliance appreciates that under such COVID-19 induced lockdown conditions, most travellers are civil servants in essential service. It therefore goes against logic that civil servants whose salaries are RTGS based and have not been increased to match the Pre RTGS era are the same salaries that are supposed to sustain Toll fees that have now been pegged to match the time when the country was under the USD era.
“What evades the mind of policy makers is the reality that the auction rate is reported to be stagnant for the past 6 months and therefore it remains baffling to have an increment of close to 200 percent compound in less than 60 days. Transport remains a critical component in the cost buildup of any business. Where toll fees are increased, fuel equally increased, it therefore means that the landed costs of any product or service rises by an equal measure and is borne by the consumer,” he said
Chikwinya said if the Government has people at heart it would realise that they (people) are locked down and sources of income are limited.
“The government if it had people at heart would realise that the very same consumer is locked down and their means of income is very limited. The MDC Alliance calls on the government to head the call of labour unions across the labour spectrum and align salaries to pre October 2018 when they were USD based.
“If the government sees it fit to align costs such as toll fees to the USD era, certainly income should follow suit. What is more painstaking is that while travellers pay such huge amounts through toll fees, reports of corruption and looting of funds at ZINARA continue unabated yet our roads continue to dilapidate with government quick to blame Local Authorities who are nowhere near revenue collection of road user funds.
“In a functional democracy, faced with such heartless and unreasonable astronomic increase in toll fees, motorists would drive into highways and park their cars enmasse blocking all highways until government becomes sensible and realistic to the economic challenges facing all of us. Unfortunately ours is an authoritarian dictatorship where freedom of expression is met by bullets flying at 45 degrees.” Said Chikwinya